Some exciting news for entomologists: a new species of tree cricket has been found in the United States. On May 16, 2009, Nancy Collins from Wisconsin and Laurel Symes, a PhD candidate at Dartmouth University, heard a tree cricket sing at Resaca de la Palma State Park and World Birding Center in Brownsville. On a return trip in June they found another cricket at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park, another World Birding Center in Mission. Further analysis by Dr. Thomas J. Walker, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida-Gainesville, revealed that it was an unnamed species of Oecanthus. Collins says that it will be called Alexander’s tree cricket, in respect of R. D. Alexander who first discovered them in Mexico in the 1960s.
This follows an exciting Dragonfly Days festival that was held in late May in Weslaco. While the festival is based at Estero Llano State Park and the Valley Nature Center, tours cover the lower Rio Grande Valley prime dragonfly and damselfly sites. This year, a Blue-spotted Comet-Darner (Anax concolor) was located at Resaca de la Palma State Park, making it a county record for Cameron. A new species of damselfly for the United States was found at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. These findings are very important for South Texas: few areas rival South Texas’ appeal for birders, and insect diversity is an integral part of a healthy environment for bird survival. Without these insects, bird diversity would decline, as would the valley’s income from ecotourism.
The World Birding Center, 8 sites along the Rio Grande from Roma to Brownsville, works to protect habitat and foster education about birds and bird conservation. The final site to open is South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, located at the island’s convention center. One wonders what surprises this place will have in store for biologists and birders alike.